RE: Cohousing / Homeschooling
From: Michael Mariner (
Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 15:15:21 -0500
Cohousing has the potential to turn around the societal trends that have 
resulted in the fragmentation, alienation, and apathy in our lives.  The 
simple act of creating community/extended family in the neighborhood 
where we don't have to drive anywhere to connect -- to find other humans 
that support and care for us is a major step.

Since education is major reinforcer of society's current condition, I 
feel cohousers should expand toward homeschooling/unschooling whenever 
their energy permits.

Julie said:  
>I think the biggest problem is related to the fact children spend all their 
time with
>other children their own age. They create a whole social structure around
>that age grouping, and their social learning becomes focused on making
>that structure work better. 

Yes, age segregation is unnatural and detrimental to learning.  Most 
unschoolers advocate reintegrating learning with the whole life of the 
community -- not just among different ages of kids.  But that's only one 
of many shortcoming of conventional schools.  I feel the whole schooling 
paradigm needs changing.

In most conventional schools:

-  Children  sit at their desks for several hours of the day and 
passively listen to an adult imparting information.  Adults do need to 
guide learning, but much of the excitement and joy is lost when the child 
has to do things in lock-step with the teacher and the whole class.  The 
passivity itself is deadly to energetic, healthy kids.

-  Kids rarely get to take the initiative with anything.  Is it any 
wonder that we well-schooled adults expect the government or employer to 
do everything for us?  Many people don't have faith in themselves and 
lack practice resolving conflicts or taking the initiative.

-  Children have little choice about when/what to study.  If they get 
excited about something, they have to stop when the next subject starts 
or wait until the slowest child in the class gets it right.  Hence most 
of school is stultifying or just plain boring.  This lesson teaches us 
that it's natural to work boring jobs and having boring lives.

-  Kids learn an amazing amount by playing, yet school insists on making 
everything arduous and difficult.  I know from personal exprience that 
kids can learn to read, write and do math amazingly fast.  In our 1970's 
alternative school, a boy didn't learn to read til he was 10 (causing his 
parents some anxiety) but then suddenly, in the space of just a couple of 
months he learned to read because he wanted to know what the captions 
under the pictures in National Geographic said.  So he learned 
"overnight" when his parents stopped reading them to him. 

-  Learning needs to be evaluated, but not the way schools do it with 
tests and grades of A, B, C, D, F.  Each human being is entirely unique.  
It's more important how we measure up to our own capacity than it is to 
find out how we compare to others or to some abstract standard.  Yes, 
society needs kids to be functional with a broad range of skills, but 
they're easy compared to challenging our own personalities.

-  Don't even get me started about secondary school.  Most of today's 
schools couldn't be more inappropriate to what young adults need:  huge 
anonymous institutions, fragmented subjects, almost total denial of what 
they're going through emotionally, almost no mentoring, no apprenticing, 
alienation from the larger community, etc., etc.

Well, got on a rave, didn't I!  Since this isn't an unschooling list,  
I'll stop there.  Suffice it to say, for the good of us all, I hope 
cohousing evolves quickly to where each coho neighborhood reintegrates as 
much of the residents' lives as possible.   

Cohousing can offer a rich environment for homeschooling because of the 
friendly cooperation among the members of the community, the safe 
environment and the resources at hand that schools or non-cohesive 
neighborhoods couldn't hope to offer.

To summarize my rant about conventional schooling, here's a little known, 
8-line,  Robert Frost poem:

What Fifty Said   

[I assume the title refers to 50 years of living - Mike]

When I was young I was taught by the old.
I gave up fire for form till I was cold.
I suffered like a metal being cast.
I went to school to age, to learn the past.

Now that I'm old my teachers are the young.
What can't be molded must be cracked and sprung.
I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.
I go to school to youth, to learn the future.

That line, "I gave up fire for form til I was cold" echoes in my head  
often as I struggle to manifest my creativity at age 51.


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